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Kelly Cheek
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Poke Me!

Have you ever been poked?

Oh stop it! I’m talking about Facebook pokes, one of the more obscure and misunderstood features of the social networking site. You get a notice that one of your friends poked you, and you have the option of poking them back. Facebook is also nice enough to provide suggestions of other people you could poke, if you were so inclined.

I’ve never initiated a poke, but I have returned them. Sometimes. More on that later.

First, what the hell is it?

I’ve seen numerous status updates of people asking what a Facebook poke means. The responses cover a range similar to those found at the web site

  • Just to say a quick "hello"
  • To remind someone that you're waiting on a reply or message from him or her
  • To check in and see if a person has visited Facebook lately
  • To let someone know you're thinking of him or her
  • Just for fun

In some Facebook circles, though, the poke takes on a bit more of a sexual connotation, with messages posted similar to, “Oh yeah, poke me, baby!” I’ve seen memes posted with milestone numbers such as 200 pokes, 500 pokes, etc., occasionally including the names of the people involved in the pokefest.

In my novel Profile, Arden Chase said this about Facebook pokes:

Now I never understood the point of a Facebook poke. It seemed to me like a “hello,” but without all the commitment, a greeting for people who don’t want to go to the trouble of actually connecting with another person.

Since Arden is essentially an autobiographical character, that’s basically my thought about the Facebook poke. If you want to contact someone, why not just say something? “Hi.” “What are you up to?” But I guess sometimes we just want to make a quick, noncommittal contact with someone without taking the time to actually say anything.

Still, I can’t really get past the sexual connotation. And that’s never more discernible to me than when I receive pokes from male friends.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I just don’t swing that way. So on those rare occasions that I receive a poke from a male friend, I don’t return it.

No offense.